Co-products storage challenges small, medium size operations
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Co-products storage challenges small, medium size operations

By Doug Rich

STORAGE--Dr. Rick Rasby, University of Nebraska, gave an update on co-product storage at the 4-State Beef Conference in King City, Mo. The 4-State Beef Conference was held Jan. 14 and 15 at locations in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri. (Journal photo by Doug Rich.)

Cattlemen have adapted their livestock rations to include distillers co-products from the ethanol industry. No one disputes the feed value of these co-products but there is still some debate over how to efficiently store these co-products.

At the 4-State Beef Conference session held in King City, Mo., Rick Rasby, Ph.D., University of Nebraska, presented information on storing co-products. The 4-State Beef Conference was sponsored by Iowa State University, Kansas State University, University of Missouri, and University of Nebraska.

"I have never seen a practice adopted as quickly as this one in Nebraska," Rasby said, referring to feeding of the co-products from the ethanol industry.

Rasby said drought and the lack of forage in Nebraska in recent years contributed to this speedy adoption.

Basically, distillers grain comes in three common forms, wet, dried and pelletted or cubed. The price increases from wet to the pelleted form as the amount of energy to process and the amount of labor required increases.

"For small cow-calf producers and backgrounders, distillers wet grains (DWG) poses the most challenges," Rasby said.

DWG is 65 percent water and 35 percent dry matter. Handling that much water in a feed ration is the challenge.

Distillers dried grains (DDG) are easier to store but Rasby advised cattlemen not to store in overhead bins. Distillers dried grains do tend to "bridge," particularly when they are delivered hot or warm and stored in an overhead bin.

"DDGs are usually about 88 percent to 90 percent dry matter and will store for long periods of time on concrete flooring or in an overhead bin," Dr Rasby said.

Pellets and cubes store easily but they are typically only two-thirds distillers grain.

"The question is how can we get it bought and stored so it can be fed in the winter months," Rasby said.

DDGs are normally least expensive to purchase over the summer months but most cattlemen want to use them during the winter months. Matching up those two elements is the key to efficient use of distillers co-products.

DWG must be use as delivered in semi-load quantities on a weekly basis because it does not have much shelf life. This makes it difficult for small- to medium-sized operations to take advantage of this valuable feed source. Rasby said research has shown that DWG will not spoil over time if oxygen is removed. However, DWG by itself does not store well in bunker silos or in ag bags.

Research at the University of Nebraska has determined that adding small amounts of dry, bulky feedstuffs to DWG may solve these challenges with storage in silo bags or bunkers. Rasby conducted a demonstration project to evaluate alfalfa hay, grass hay, wheat straw, DDG, and corn gluten feed mixed and stored with DWG.

The demonstration project determined that straw required the least amount of forage on a dry matter basis compared to the other two forages in the experiment. The minimum level of grass hay in a mixture with DWG for bagging was 15 percent on a dry matter basis. Alfalfa hay is recommended at 22.5 percent on a dry matter basis.

Bagging a mixture of DDG and WDG worked very well. The recommended level of bagging DDG is 50 percent on a dry matter basis. More study is needed for bagging a mixture of wet corn gluten feed and DWG. The recommended level is 60 percent wet corn gluten on a dry matter basis. Rasby said the pressure on the bagger would need to be decreased.

The conclusion of the demonstration was that DWG plus dry forage could be stored in plastic bags or bunker silos for long periods of time without spoilage.

Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304, or by e-mail at

1 Star WK\17-B

Date: 1/22/09


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